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Stamp Act crisis and significance

The Stamp Act Crisis and its significance

The act was widely opposed by the colonial population resulting in organized protests that allowed the revolution movement to gain tactical experience and set a pattern of resistance that led to the American independence. During the Stamp Act crisis Americans argued that there was a difference between taxing them for revenue and taxing them for the regulation of trade. They sustained that Britain did not have the authority to tax them for revenue. The resistance of the colonies against being taxed has its roots in the slogan “No taxation without representation”. They believed that when they are taxed the government takes away their private property and they would have the right to do so only with the permission of its citizens. Since they had no representation in parliament they had no right to tax its colonial residents.

Pamphlet made by an opposition group

One of the most ardent opponents to the Stamp Act was Samuel Adams who had gained an important political ally in James Otis, a young prominent and influential lawyer of Massachusetts. The protest on the streets of Boston started as soon as they heard word of the new tax. Samuel Adams along with opposition groups from the North End and South End of Boston took their discontent to the streets organizing riots and intimidating attacks against tax collectors. These two groups were made up of tradesmen, skilled and unskilled workers, lawyers, printers and others who put aside their differences, together they became known as the Sons of Liberty.

On August 14 the Sons of Liberty hung an effigy of Andrew Oliver, the colony’s stamp distributor, from a tree on Boston Common, and subsequently paraded it through the streets of Boston. Once near Oliver’s house the group lit up a bone fire where they burned the effigy, the crowd then proceeded to break Oliver’s windows and throw stones at officials. Another violent attack was the destruction of the building that was going to become the stamp headquarters. The crowd also attacked the houses of several customs officials and the house of Lieutenant Governor Thomas Hutchinson, Andrew Oliver’s brother in law. The Stamp Act crisis for the first time drew ordinary people into transatlantic politics, even new non-English speaking immigrants who were double taxed on foreign language newspapers were involved in the protests.

Sons of Liberty demonstrators hung an effigy of Andrew Oliver, the colony’s stamp distributor

From Halifax in the north to Antigua in the south anti- Stamp Act demonstrations took place in cities and towns. Everywhere in the colonies except in Georgia the Stamp Masters were forced to resign and by November 1, 1765, the date the Stamp Act would take effect, not a single stamp distributor in the colonies was found on duty.

The most significant outcome of the resistance to the Stamp Act was that it allowed the colonist to get organized in opposition groups. Merchants implemented a non importation agreement boycotting all British goods. The Sons of Liberty, an inter-colonial organization, allowed colonies an easier access to communication and coordination of activities. The creation of the Stamp Act Congress which met in New York on October 1765 condemned the Sugar and Stamp Acts but pledged loyalty to the King.

Finally without ever gone into effect, the Marquis of Rockingham repealed the act on March, 1776. It was considered a victory for the cause of the American independence.


Related Information


What was the Stamp Act?

The Stamp Act was a tax imposed by the British government on the American colonies. The primary goal was to raise money needed for military defenses of the colonies. Stamps were required for all official documents, licenses, contract, newspapers and a long list of other paper items.

 Facts about the Stamp Act

Interesting known and unknown facts about the Stamp Act.

Repeal of the Stamp Act

The boycott of English goods by the colonies forced the British Parliament to repeal the original Stamp Act on March 18, 1766.

Original text of the Stamp Act

Text of the original document of the act as enacted by the British Parliament.

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